French farmers forced to destroy rapeseed after GM seed found

PARIS, France (Reuters) — French farmers destroyed about 44,000 acres of rapeseed, more than double the area initially expected, following the discovery of a non-authorized genetically modified organism in seeds, German group Bayer said.

Bayer announced in February that farmers in France and Germany were turning over thousands of acres of rapeseed crops after traces of a GM variety grown in Canada were detected in batches of seed sold in Europe.

GM crops remain controversial in Europe, where very few varieties are authorized for growing and countries like France have outlawed their cultivation, citing environmental risks.

A spokesperson for Bayer, which had previously estimated about 20,000 acres of rapeseed would be lost in France, said the area had reached 44,480 acres after further precautionary removals of crops, for example when there were doubts over the traceability of seeds.

The latest figures in Germany showed the area of rapeseed destroyed there was 5,300 acres, slightly lower than initial expectations, Bayer said.

The destruction was carried out before the flowering of crops, which could have led to the spreading of the non-authorized GM variety.

The affected seed was sold under the Dekalb brand, developed by American company Monsanto, which was acquired by Bayer last year.

Bayer has offered compensation to farmers for the loss of this year’s crop and an obligation not to grow rapeseed next year to avoid re-emergence of rapeseed containing the GM strain.

Bayer said the cause of the contamination was still unclear and an internal investigation was continuing.

The seeds were produced in Argentina in a GMO-free zone, Bayer said, adding that the South American country had not authorized cultivation of GM rapeseed nor conducted field trials of such varieties.

The crops lost in France and Germany are relatively small given a rapeseed area of about 2.45 million acres in each country.

But they will add to a sharp decline in area this year after drought led farmers to scale back sowings.

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